Saturday, 19 November 2011 18:19

SOPA represents a real threat to Freedom of Information and Speech

Written by
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Reading time is around minutes.

broken-lockRecent events in Washington have caused quite a stir on the internet as a very oppressive bill is working its way through the legislative branch of the US government. We have talked about this bill and its dangerous consequences more than once but with the release of some new information and after a few questions that we were recently asked we are going to approach it again. First let’s give you a little background as we show you how the US will be if the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) is passed.

SOPA is a bill that has a laudable goal; to bring rampant online piracy of software and other content to a halt. To do this the bill wants to enable content providers (most notably the Motion Picture Associate or America and Recording Industry Artists of America) with some extra power. Right now the process to go after sites that host pirated files is (according to these two agencies) cumbersome and not effective. These big media companies also claim that piracy costs them millions of dollars per year which impacts jobs and the economy. They have gone so far as to claim that piracy is now a threat to national security and wellbeing.

The media companies have always wanted to be able to go directly to the ISP (Internet Service Provider) and put a stop to this. We have watched this as their pattern in case after case, this pattern has gotten them into trouble at least once because they need court permission to do this. The process goes something like this. The MPAA or RIAA organizations (both of which actually fit the definition of a Cartel in the US Anti-Trust Laws) use different techniques from honey pots (servers intended to lure file sharers in) to actually connecting to torrent webs to get a list of IP addresses (a series of dotted decimal numbers that identify a computer or other device on the Internet). However these IP addresses have no names attached to them. The attorney for the particular company then files a motion with a judge for an Early Discovery. The Early Discovery Process allows an attorney (in a copyright law suit) to subpoena an ISP to get the names associated with the IP addresses. In turn the lawyers (or their assistants really) send out demand letters asking the person to pay the fine for the infringement or be taken to court. Many people pay the fines, but some actually do go to court and have won in the end.

We have actually left out a step here; after getting the information on the suspected file sharers the lawyers go through them and remove certain names; Police, Politicians, Active Duty Military serving overseas, oh and Actors and Musicians.

If SOPA passes things will change dramatically. The first thing that will happen and one that will be invisible to most people is that ISPs will have to install some new hardware/software into their networks. The first would be a change to the Domain Naming System (DNS) this would be altered to allow for a deny listing of domain names. With this in place you would not be able to go to an offending site by domain name. Next would be a method for preventing traffic to the IP address of the offending site. This would be to prevent people from getting around the DNS block by simply typing in the IP address of the site (there is a provision in the SOPA bill that would make going to a site by direct IP address a felony). Both of these things are possible today, but they are not easy to maintain or to get up and going. The cost of both of these would be passed onto the consumer you can bet. Finally all ISP would be required to setup hardware to perform DPI (Deep Packet Inspection). This handy technology allows you to take a look into the data packets that are sent around on the internet. This includes secure traffic (such as that use in a VPN tunnel or Encrypted), but to do this all traffic would have to be routed through these systems and captured (some ISPs already have this and have been caught using it). According to Congress and the content providers these three things would be needed to control the flood gates of piracy.

The process would be simplified to “remove” offending sites as well. The company that felt its Copyright had been violated would only need to file a complaint with the courts. From there the court would review the findings and allow or deny the submission of the block to the site. In the event that a block was not total (meaning they are only going to block one page) then the DPI inspection would go into effect). The offending site will have limited rights before and even after the block to get these restrictions removed.

Sounds simple right? Well it both is and is not. The sad fact is that the person (or company) that runs the site that is being accused has almost no rights in this at all. The block order goes to the ISP first and they must comply with the block order or risk being fined. The other side of this fiasco waiting to happen is that now the US government has the power (and the tools) to scan ALL Internet traffic traveling through the US. We are sure that this would become a standard as it would be seen as a great tool to combat terrorism, espionage and other “bad” things.

From there it would be a simple baby step for religious groups to lobby for the removal of pornographic material from the Internet. It would start simply and logically first. The initial request would be for things like child pornography and other “deviant” material. From there it would expand (as it always does) to other types of material and content. It would not be long before anything that was in opposition to the current controlling lobby would be banned from being read in the US. If this sounds familiar it should, this is exactly what it happening in China, Iran, and many other repressive regimes around the world. There would be no information but what the controlling groups wanted you to see, anything else would be blocked.

The truth be told the Beginning of SOPA would spell the End of freedom of information and speech.

Discuss this in our Forum

Read 2607 times Last modified on Saturday, 19 November 2011 18:26

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.